I kneel in grass gone crisp with July,
part stalks of raspberry bushes
finger-tips blooming red, knees smudged
and dimpled by the small hardness of pebbles.
Overhead, a Whiskey Jack attempts to thieve
a few spilled berries, while I pretend
not to notice.
From my rooftop, I'm sure I could see fields
gold with canola, their brightness shocking
in early dusk.
I dig fingers into the earth, searching
for moisture, my garden spade
ready to carve out a spot for a few Asters,
bring some patience to my garden.
Here beyond the mountains, I'm learning
a different kind of summer, one dry
and windy and ever rolling
with a green sometimes overwhelming.
In the kitchen, steam billows from pots
and strips of zucchini soften.
Lazy flies hover near the steam,
tasting my knuckles as I peel
cloves of garlic, smashing each one
on the steel countertop, grating
until my fingers are raw.
They will smell of garlic for weeks.
I escape the heat and flies
for the cool courtyard,
eyes wet with the sting of red onion,
the peel sticks to my fingertips
like children at an apron’s hem.
Outside, another volunteer swings
the lettuce dry, round and round
in a wire basket, a light rain
dotting the stone steps.
I know that uphill, work has not ceased.
The pound of hammer against rock echoes
to the courtyard, interrupts this moment
of silent rest. The stomp of footsteps goes on,
hands lugging quarried stone to the wall
each worker searching
for a place to lay their paving stone.
What I don’t know is that
I will miss this heat,
and mortar-burned fingertips;
stone pitchers of wine,
the climb to the castle each morning
and even, perhaps
the hand-sized spiders
and the way they hover
above your bed,
on walls, in shoes,
wondering how long
you will stay
and when you will return.
In this forest, the deserted path
waits for snow. For now,
it is littered with leaves like gold
coins marking the way home. More
permanent than breadcrumbs, if only
you would follow.
I find them fluttering
like love-notes on the front seat,
beneath the steering wheel,
in the cracks of the glove compartment.
Hours earlier, the open sunroof
on a prairie sky day,
blue and yellow horizons,
seemed a good idea.
You toss them in the air,
smile as I take your picture,
and you are a goddess
in this Northern forest, a bright treasure
in the soon barren landscape.
And when I can’t snap the shutter
in time, I want to grasp your shoulders,
your waist, your hair, and say
so I can memorize your hands
unfurling golden fall, hips turned
toward me like a kiss
and the leaves landing,
like clumsy hands,
in your hair,
at your feet.
Remember the year
autumn never came at all.
The aspen leaves trembling
green then gone,
brushed under a skirt of snow.
No time for fall,
when winter sweeps in so fast,
settles down knee deep,
heels dug in to stubborn ground.
I remember how we tried
to make warmth that year,
the aspen chopped to kindle a fire—
and you, knitting our hope-
chest full. Even now,
I recognize the signs.